Match Report: Ipswich Men drop 2 on the road

Cardiff Met Archers 98-90 Ipswich Basketball

NBL Division 2

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Northampton Titans 81-55 Ipswich Basketball

NBL National Cup Round 2

Northampton School for Boys

Ipswich’s Senior Men suffered a chastening weekend on the road, with an early stumble, in what looks set to be a very competitive NBL Division 2 season, on Saturday compounded by an early cup exit in Sunday’s fixture.

Saturday’s fixture saw an extremely finely-balanced affair in Wales eventually go the way of the hosts after a short-handed Ipswich side put up a valiant effort, even leading the game as late as mid-way through the fourth quarter.

With four starters and key role players unavailable, the Suffolk side leaned heavily on the offensive prowess of Jake Eynon and Lee Hodges. Eynon led all scorers with 27 points in the opening 20 minutes, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer to tie the game at 49-49 at the half.

Cardiff benefited from a rather more varied offence – the hosts scored 13 threes in the game, shared among seven players – and paced by American guard Keith Claiborne, were able build a five-point lead at 71-66 by the end of the third quarter.

The game swung on a decision early in the fourth when Eynon was ejected for a perhaps controversial unsportsmanlike foul, despite Blake Read appearing to have made it back into a covering position. Down eight as their leading scorer went to the bench, Adam Robinson’s side mustered a spirited 11-2 run to take the lead briefly at 77-76 behind scores from Joel Keeble and Cameron Hawes. Cardiff responded with five threes in three minutes, and the game was as good as concluded.

Eynon ended with a game-high 33 points while Hodges racked up 22 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Claiborne finished with 26 as Cardiff saw five players tally double-figure points totals.

The short-handed men had a difficult weekend on the road (Photo: Pavel Kricka)

With Hodges unavailable but Will Ashby and Joe Thomas joining the group, Ipswich endured an uncharacteristically frustrating afternoon in Northampton on Sunday. Points were very tough to come by throughout, with Ipswich shooting just 15% from three-point range and committing 19 turnovers.

Northampton, themselves boasting Division 1 experience and led by Leon Henry and Jason Tucker, look like early-season contenders in Division 2 North and leaned on their physical advantage as Ipswich felt the absences of several forwards. The first half was a scrappy affair in both directions, both teams throwing the ball away repeatedly and a half-time score of 38-24 reflecting that.

The hosts extended their lead with a decisive 26-13 third quarter, and though Ipswich won the final quarter to keep the score respectable, it was always difficult to see a route back into the game for the visitors.

“We’ve learned a lot this weekend, and can take some important lessons into a series of home games ahead,” said head coach Robinson. “We know that we’re not often going to be at full strength and that is not an excuse for the performances this weekend. That said, I’m looking forward to getting some of our injured players back next weekend, and seeing what we can do when we are closer to full-strength.”

Ipswich return to Copleston Sports Centre next Saturday when they host East London All-Stars.